The resilience of the comic book and retail community throughout the pandemic – The Columbia Chronicle



Ryan brumback

Business and retail businesses in the South Loop and in the city have been hit hard by the initial lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic from March 2020. But today, much of the industry of comics in the city have survived in part thanks to adjustments made by retailers. during the pandemic and a call to a new target audience.

“It was a little tough, and the employees all went home and didn’t work during that time – it was just me,” said James Nurss, owner of First Aid Comics in Hyde Park, 1617 E. 55th St., one of the chain’s two locations. “The cast has changed in comics. … There has been a lot of angst and struggle for the cast, and it will continue.

Shipment delays and cancellation of in-person events were among the pandemic’s first impacts on first aid comics, but the store’s expansion of pickup and mail order has helped to increase the number. sales of comics and merchandise in particular.

It was a similar experience with another downtown comic book store – Graham Crackers Comics.

The downtown location of 77 E. Madison St., which reopened in late spring 2020, has also changed retail by offering mail order, pickup and curbside delivery options. .

Being part of a 12 store comic book chain has helped Graham Crackers Comics as the ability to move merchandise to different stores has helped keep all of its locations open.

“We took the biggest hit. We were the busiest of stores, and… now the busiest again. However, that’s a long way from where we were, ”said Earl Geier, South Loop location manager for Graham Crackers Comics. “But where we stayed, the local stores [in our chain] picked up.”

These curbside and mail order orders are not the only contributors to the success of comic book stores throughout the pandemic. It can also be attributed to the types of contemporary comics being sold to new audiences.

The release of DC Comic’s “Superman: Son of Kal-El” comic book series in 2021 revealed that Superman’s son Jon Kent was bisexual and with a boyfriend, which had a major backlash. The first issue has sold out completely, according to a tweet from comic book series writer Tom Taylor, and circulated around 68,000 copies in total in July, its first month.

Austin St. Peter, assistant professor in the Department of English and Creative Writing, said the LGBTQ + inclusiveness in modern comics and the additional portrayal of people of color and women have helped revive interest in comics, especially to Millennials and Gen Z audiences.

Yet these new changes in the diversity of comics, both in the material and in the community, have led to an increase in hate groups with misogynist and white supremacist tendencies fighting against the diversification of comics, said St. Peter. .

In response, St. Peter attributes the influx of young people into the comic book community to their reaction to the discriminatory and reactionary movements that have arisen over the past two years – a method of combating these hate groups.

According to sales data collected by Diamond Comic Distributors, a comic book distribution company, the summer of 2021 was its recovery period from the pandemic and saw a total of $ 230 million in comic book and novel sales. graphics. Compared to its sales before the summer 2019 pandemic, it made $ 48 million more in 2021.

“The comics have done a much better job of recognizing women and people of color than a lot of other hobbies,” said St. Peter. “You have people who read comics to assert their identity choices and understand the lives of people who share an identity similar to them. … But there is still a large community of people who adore superhero comics.

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